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There's something fishy about the latest equipment trend. Since September some 40 players on the PGA Tour, including Davis Love III, the Tour's second-leading money-winner last year, have switched from steel-shaft irons to irons with graphite shafts manufactured by G. Loomis—a company named for its founder, Gary Loomis, and known heretofore for its high-priced line of fishing rods. "We found out that 69 percent of the Tour players also fish," says Loomis marketing director Burl Outlaw. "So we've taken players on fishing trips to the Florida Keys, fly-fishing trips to Montana, trout fishing in Utah. We have a rule that when we go on fishing trips, absolutely no one talks about golf."
Whatever the conversation, a good number of players have taken the bait and are now hooked on Loomis shafts. Previously, graphite appeared in Tour bags mostly on drivers and fairway woods because players felt that they couldn't get a set of graphite-shaft irons with uniform balance—and without that, the trajectory of their shots would be adversely affected. Loomis shafts, which are slightly thicker and heavier than other graphite shafts, seem to have achieved greater uniformity.
The key technical improvement has to do with flexibility and vibration. Graphite iron shafts other than Loomis's tend to be stiff, though not as stiff as the more widely used steel shafts. The Loomis X-shafts, according to players who have installed them on their clubs, are less stiff than other graphite shafts and create less vibration on impact. Those two factors mean less shock to the hands and arms than with steel and other graphite shafts.
This quality is of particular importance to tournament players, who beat hundreds of balls every week on the practice range. John Adams, one of the Tour's long hitters, switched to graphite irons in 1985 because of tendinitis in his left elbow. Until the Loomis shafts became available, though, he had to put up with shafts that were still too stiff. "Now I can go full bore with my irons," he says, "and I don't feel the shock."
Another convert is Love, who put Loomis shafts on his irons last September. In nine outings with his new rods, Love has won four times and landed $800,000 in winnings.
Third-year pro John Daly is scheduled to rejoin the Tour on Thursday at the Phoenix Open about a month after announcing that he was entering an alcohol rehabilitation center. Last week's news of his return caught many Tour officials by surprise. It came just four weeks after Daly had been arrested following a destructive rampage through his Colorado home, during which he allegedly slammed his wife against a wall. The episode prompted PGA commissioner Deane Beman to urge that Daly seek treatment. At the time, Daly vowed to return "only when I am comfortable my life is in order." At this point the primary judge of whether Daly's life is in order is Daly.
"The real unknown killer of drinking is that it stunts your emotional growth," says Senior tour pro Frank Beard, himself a recovering alcoholic. "When I quit drinking, at age 42, I was a 20-year-old emotionally."
In that light, many people are hoping that Daly, at 26, is not merely a troubled adolescent.
Eighteen years as a touring pro should have revealed most of golf's secrets to Howard Twitty, but his win at the Hawaiian Open left him looking for answers. "Why that week?" he asked last week in Tucson, following his pro-am round at the Northern Telecom Open. "Why all of a sudden? Why was it at Hawaii? I mean, if you saw me play in Hawaii, you'd have thought that I'd won a couple of tournaments recently."
Twitty had won a couple of tournaments, but certainly not recently. Twelve and a half winless years had passed since his victory at the Sammy Davis Jr.-Greater Hartford Open, the longest gap between victories in the history of the Tour. The previous record was held by Leonard Thompson, who went 12 years between his wins at the 1977 Pensacola Open and the 1989 Buick Open.